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Body composition at birth and its relationship with neonatal anthropometric ratios: The newborn body composition study of the INTERGROWTH-21st Project


We aimed to describe newborn body composition and identify which anthropometric ratio (weight/length; BMI; or ponderal index, PI) best predicts fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM).


Air-displacement plethysmography (PEA POD) was used to estimate FM, FFM, and body fat percentage (BF%). Associations between FFM, FM, and BF% and weight/length, BMI, and PI were evaluated in 1,019 newborns using multivariate regression analysis. Charts for FM, FFM, and BF% were generated using a prescriptive subsample (n=247). Standards for the best-predicting anthropometric ratio were calculated utilizing the same population used for the INTERGROWTH-21st Newborn Size Standards (n=20,479).


FFM and FM increased consistently during late pregnancy. Differential FM, BF%, and FFM patterns were observed for those born preterm (34+0−36+6 weeks’ gestation) and with impaired intrauterine growth. Weight/length by gestational age (GA) was a better predictor of FFM and FM (adjusted R2=0.92 and 0.71, respectively) than BMI or PI, independent of sex, GA, and timing of measurement. Results were almost identical when only preterm newborns were studied. We present sex-specific centiles for weight/length ratio for GA.


Weight/length best predicts newborn FFM and FM. There are differential FM, FFM, and BF% patterns by sex, GA, and size at birth.

Pediatric Research: Villar J, Puglia FA, Fenton TR, Cheikh Ismail L, Staines-Urias E, Giuliani F, Ohuma EO, Victora CG, Sullivan P, Barros FC, Lambert A, Papageorghiou AT, Ochieng R, Jaffer YA, Altman DG, Noble AJ, Gravett MG, Purwar M, Pang R, Uauy R, Kennedy SH, Bhutta ZA. Body composition at birth and its relationship with neonatal anthropometric ratios: the newborn body composition study of the INTERGROWTH-21st project. Pediatr Res. 2017 Aug;82(2):305-316.